What to do when the bobbin thread is showing on top of the hoop

So you’re stitching along and your embroidery is looking great in the hoop.  All of a sudden you notice that the bobbin thread is starting to show up on top of the hoop!  Don’t be touching the top tension knob!  90% of the time, the problem of bobbin thread on top of the hoop is caused by a problem under the hoop in the bobbin area.

photo 1-1Here are the first things I run through to troubleshoot the problem:

1. Did you just change the bobbin?  If so maybe you didn’t thread it through correctly OR maybe you put the bobbin in backwards.  Take the bobbin out, make sure you are putting it in following the diagram and make sure that you are threading the bobbin through the path with a little bit of “secure tension” on the thread – kind of like if you were flossing teeth.  Not tight and rough to cause bleeding gums! But you want to “thread with purpose” so that you are sure that the bobbin thread is going into the tension disks securely.

2. Take out the bobbin and the shuttle (the case the bobbin drops into shown to the left).  Use a soft brush and clean in the machine, under and around where the case was seated.  Your machine manual will have great diagrams on how to take out the bobbin, shuttle and most I’ve seen have pictures showing where to clean or where to pay attention to where the fuzz collects!  NOTE: I do not use q-tips to clean this area.  I use a small nylon brush or a mini sheepskin duster (looks like a pencil or chopstick with a sheepskin fur ball glued to the end).  Qtips tend to shed and can snag on sharp edges adding fibers to what you are trying to remove.

3. Next, you need to clean out the tension disks of the bobbin case using a fine pin or business card.  Here is a PDF file that you can download showing you a close up of what I’m talking about:

PDF on Bobbin Case Cleaning

A bright light and a fine pin or business card are the best tools for the job.  The fuzz that you will find may not be seen unless you shine the bright light in there and you see reflections or shadows.

I clean out my bobbin area every time I change bobbins ESPECIALLY if I am stitching with tearaway stabilizer or on fabric that sheds like Minkee or burlap or glitter vinyl appliques!  Felt is another fabric that will fill your bobbin case with schmutz – not the technical term but dust and fuzz do not really describe what you will find in the bobbin area. And yes, I said tearaway stabilizer will create more schmutz in the bobbin case than other types of stabilizer – its the nature of the product.  It tears away so the needle can shred it and down the hole in the throat plate go all the particles.  And yes, some brands will create more or less particles than others.

In other words – for consistently successful embroidery, there are a couple of things you need to work out between you and your machine.  Sounds like I’m giving relationship advice – how many of you are nodding and thinking this doesn’t sound far fetched?  So here’s how to keep the honeymoon going (or getting it started!)  First, you  need to determine what “fiber ingredients” work best for you with the types of designs and projects you are stitching.  What stabilizer, hooping technique, needle, thread in top and bobbin, topping, fabric stitching on, etc – all these make up the ingredients to the embroidery project at hand. How do you figure all this out?  Pay attention to what your machine is doing.  Listen to your machine as it stitches. Look at the stitching results on top of the hoop and underneath.  If you make ONE adjustment, note it and see what changed – on top and on the backside of the hoop.

Part of the “paying attention to see what works” is also to note what is going on in the bobbin case.  If you just finished appliqueing a bunch of burlap garden flags with glitter vinyl floated on a very papery tear away stabilizer – take a few moments to take out your bobbin and bobbin case.  Notice anything different that when you were stitching cotton totes with simple monograms? Make a note.  I bet you see schmutz.

I am definitely NOT saying that the only time you get schmutz in the bobbin case is when you stitch non-cotton fabrics!  Holy smokes! The only time your bobbin case will remain pristine clean is if you don’t use your sewing/embroidery machine!  It can’t be avoided, but if you want to continue successful embroidery, taking the time to make a few adjustments before the next project can save lots of headaches dealing with a problem.  Clean the case.  Change the needle.  Inspect the thread cutter area under the throat plate.  Just do a quick 1-2-3 check of everything and a quick clean and you’ll be more likely to continue successful embroidery.

Until next time – wishing you zero thread nests!



8 Comments on “What to do when the bobbin thread is showing on top of the hoop”

  1. mmp1953 says:

    Thanks, this is great information Lisa….as always your tips are timely!!!!

  2. christine says:

    Thank you! Very good info. I just took my machine in to be cleaned and had I had this info beforehand, I might have saved myself $100! Your blog is very informative, I found it through taking your Craftsy class which I would highly recommend to anyone.

    • Thanks for the compliments! I’m glad you found the information helpful – I do all of my own machine maintenance living so far away from any dealer, so I really look and listen to my machines to figure out how to keep them happy! ENJOY!

  3. Passenger says:

    Thank you. I’m just getting started and this was very helpful in troubleshotting. Double thanks for the PDF. Great closeups.

  4. Thanks Lisa for the awesome post! I had issues with my shuttle a while back where every time the needle would go up and down the shuttle would make a popping sound. I tried cleaning it over and over again until I gave up and bought a new one which fixed the issue. I didn’t realize that the needle could snag on to the shuttle and cut some chunks out of it.

  5. amos says:

    thank you for your advice and time

    • mariliano says:

      Thank you so much! I have a Husqvarna Viking Epic and wasn’t sure if the directions would help but it did!! Excellent! Thank you tons!!

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